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Thursday, November 22, 2012

AUSTERITY OR DEBT: A FALSE CHOICE




Members of Congress argue that the only way out of the debt they created is to impose austerity measures that target the social safety net provided by Medicare and Social Security. These are the primary protections against the depredations of a system that puts the interests of the rich over those of ordinary citizens. Their proposed solution to the problem of their own making is to protect the wealthy individuals who fund their campaigns and neglect the needs of the people who actually elected them. While this strategy is provoking riots and international strikes in Europe, many Americans accept this as a sensible solution. They fail to understand some basic facts.

The debt that the US has accumulated since the Reagan years is the result of a system of corporate welfare that has left the American and world economy in a shambles. Both parties have promoted globalization, shifting jobs to third world nations. They have given tax breaks to corporations and “job creators” who ship these jobs overseas, deregulated banks that taxpayers had to bail out and privatized essential government functions to profited corporations by degrading services and making them more expensive, all to maximum profits for the investor class.

The real reason for the debt “crisis” is that the US government has deeply indebted taxpayers to private banks, promoting private profits over investment in the social and economic infrastructure that made America great in the first place. In Iceland, they threw out those in Parliament responsible for transferring  private debt to taxpayers and prosecuted the banksters who took illegal advantage of their privileged position. Instead of passively assuming the debt their government tried to foist on them, they repudiated much of the debt that had been assumed in their name. We can do the same here, but only by first ending the ability of special interests to buy members of Congress of their choice by financing their elections.

A look at changing US demographics shows that unregulated capitalism will inevitably fail. Developed nations always see a drop in birthrate as women are empowered to have more control over their bodies and to participate in the economy. This means that over time, a smaller and younger work force has to generate the tax base necessary to fund essential government functions and to assure that retirees have the security afforded by Social Security and Medicare. This is the reason that we are in a real crisis with Medicare. Baby Boomers are retiring in record numbers at the same time that a generation of young Americans are facing the most dismal job prospects in American history. It is unconscionable that older Americans expect their grandchildren to provide for their retirements while denying them the opportunities that allowed them to prosper during their working lives.

It will take an entirely new economic model to move the country forward and assure that our children can enjoy the American dream. We must elect leaders who will challenge the system of corporate welfare that is bankrupting the nation. We can then have an honest debate about how and why making Medicare universally available will dramatically cut the costs of healthcare, eliminate 60% of bankruptcies and assure that no one need choose between food and necessary health care. They can also fix Social Security easily by removing the cap on the FICA tax so that the rich pay their fair share.

We also have to realize that no economy can be built on the idea of endless growth. The resources of the planet are finite. If we expect human civilization to survive the coming global climate catastrophe we are beginning to see in Sandy, Katrina and a unprecedented number of other major storms, we must create an environmentally sustainable economy by promoting local production of food and goods, converting to sustainable energy sources and reducing carbon emissions through tax incentives. This will require that those who have profited in this collapsing economy pay their fair share. The Bush tax cuts must be allowed to expire and corporate tax cuts need to be tied to job creation. We cannot afford to give highly profitable corporations like Exxon and General Electric to reap billions in tax rebates while average Americans lose their homes.

To make Congress accountable to We the People, we must make them pledge to support amending the constitution to ban corporate campaign expenditures, limit individual donations to influence elections and abolish corporate personhood. It is too late to make this a campaign issue in 2012 but not too early to begin making it an issue in 2014.

You can learn more about the Pledge to Amend campaign here.

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